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English want big runs

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England will place a major emphasis on scoring big in the first innings when they tackle a disjointed Proteas team in four Tests starting on Boxing Day.

England will place a major emphasis on scoring big in the first innings when they tackle a disjointed Proteas team in four Tests starting on Boxing Day. While that sounds like an obvious thing for England head coach Chris Silverwood to focus on, turning words into deeds as far as that aspect of their play is concerned has been very hard for England to do in 2019.

They’ve only gone past 400 once this year, and that was in their last Test match against New Zealand on a slow, flat track in Hamilton where Joe Root’s 226 was one of five centuries scored.

In fact, England have been bowled out for less than 100 more times than they have topped 400 this year – on three occasions, including once by Ireland at Lord’s.

In any other period, the Proteas would be licking their chops at the prospect of playing this England team, but then South African cricket and the national team appears totally dysfunctional at the moment.

Not that Silverwood or the English squad are worrying themselves over the Proteas. Silverwood diplomatically shouldered arms yesterday when asked to comment on the state of South African cricket.

Instead the 44-year-old former medium pacer, capped six times by his country, offered the standard, “we want to focus on ourselves” response. And in truth, there is a lot for England, especially their batsmen, to focus on in the next week ahead of the first Test.

“We restructured the batting line-up a bit and we are looking at new ways of doing things,” said Silverwood.

“It’s not reinventing the wheel by a long a shot, but New Zealand was a good learning curve for us.”

In New Zealand, Silverwood, who took over from Australian Trevor Bayliss after the Ashes, made a strong push for his batsmen to be more patient.

They were, but New Zealand’s batsmen were more stoic and as a result the Kiwis snuck a 1-0 win in a two match mini-series.

“It is about getting those first innings runs, then we can pile pressure on first up and as soon as we start doing that we will be very hard to beat.”

Root’s double-hundred in the second Test was a significant boost both to him and the team in that regard.

“It settles the form issue,” Silverwood said of that knock by England’s captain. “To get a double-hundred is great for him and great for us as a team. It puts him on the front foot for this series and from a captaincy point of view he is learning and moving forward.”

England’s bowlers were made to toil in New Zealand, but Silverwood is expecting there to be a lot more help for them in this country.

“We’ll get more bounce here obviously, because there is a bit more pace. That will suit our bowlers. The bowlers have worked so hard on finding ways of getting 20 wickets with that Kookaburra ball and it’s not that we’ve cracked it, but we are working on it and we will get there.”

Following the two-day warm-up match, where England are likely to use their entire squad, they will play a first class fixture against a South Africa A side, also at Willowmoore Park, starting on Friday.

First Class WARM-Up Fixture

England vs South Africa A

Willowmoore Park, Benoni

England squad: Rory Burns, Dominic Sibley, Zak Crawley, Joe Root (capt), Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Ollie Pope, Ben Stokes, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Matt Parkinson, Sam Curran, Chris Woakes, Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, Mark Wood, James Anderson

South Africa A: Temba Bavuma, Nandré Burger, Theunis de Bruyn, Reeza Hendricks, Pieter Malan , Andile Phehlukwayo , Dane Piedt, Lutho Sipamla, Glenton Stuurman , Pite van Biljon, Kyle Verreynne